Another rising young talent in European basketball put his stamp on a huge victory Wednesday as Efes Pilsen ended Benetton Treviso's invicibility with a thrilling 84-83 Group A victory in Istanbul. The winning basket came with 4 seconds left off the hand of 19-year-old Ender Arslan, who drove and shot from close for his only 2 points of the night. His basket capped a wild game that Efes led by 20 in the first quarter, but needed to make its own comeback to win. Marcus Brown was the man again for Efes, with 30 points, including 6 three-pointers. Antonio Granger made all 5 of his three-point tries, finishing with 28 points, all but 7 of those in the first half. Asim Pars added 10 for the winners, who are now 2-0 in Group A. For Benetton, which drops to 1-1 with its first loss of any kind this season, Denis Marconato put up 20 points and 12 rebounds, Tyus Edney 20 points, Jorge Garbajosa 14, Massimo Bulleri 12 and Marcelo Nicola 11.
Efes started the game with an agressive man-to-man defence that locked up Benetton's ball movement, limiting the guests to just 3 points in 3 minutes while getting the home crowd immediately involved in the game. A three-pointer by Brown, who played for Benetton two seasons ago, put the score then at 10-3. Then Brown repeated the shot to make it 13-3 just 15 seconds later. Benetton seemed to lack concentration and could not get going at all. Efes took full advantage now with a 12-2 run over 3 minutes as Granger started drilling his own deep shots. One of those extended the Efes lead to an incredible 20 points, 32-12, just 9 minutes into the action. The quarter would end 34-16, but knowing Benetton's scoring potential, it was too early to draw any conclusions in Istanbul.
Indeed, Benetton awoke up from its sleep in the second quarter, using defense that led to fastbreaks and registering a series of quick baskets to change the game. As Efes's high shooting percentage went down, Benetton sent the rebounds upcourt fast and with each possession cut the deficit. Mario Stojic tipped in one miss to reduce the difference to 10 points, 36-26, even before the halfway point in the quarter. Tyus Edney was scoring, but had a bigger effect harrassing the Efes playmakers with his defense. Kerem Tunceri had three fouls fouls already, and was replaced in turn by Ender Arslan and Omer Onan. Meanwhile, Benetton took the control of the game, if not the scoreboard just yet, catching Efes second by second. Finally, with 4 seconds left in the half, the comeback was complete as Garbajosa hit a three-pointer from the left corner to equal the score at 40-40. The basket made him Benetton's top scorer with 10 points, while Granger was on 21 and Brown 14 for Efes. Most important, Benneton had turned around defensively, holding Efes to just 6 second-quarter points after having given up 34 in the first.
After each defense had gotten burned in one of the first two quarters, they settled down and concentrated after the half. Benetton was able to finally grab its first lead of the game, 44-46, on a pair of free throws by center Denis Marconato some 4 minutes after the break. Benetton kept control of the rythm of the game, with Massimo Bulleri now leading the well-organized offensive possessions until forward Marcelo Nicola's inside basket gave the visitors a five-point lead, 48-53, after 27 minutes. It was time for someone on Efes to respond, and that someone was Brown. With Granger still sitting on the same 21 points with which he started the second half, Brown raised up and hit his second three-pointer of the quarter, putting Efes back in action at 60-61 in a game it had owned earlier.
The good news for Efes was that Granger was hitting shots again to force a 64-64 tie early in the fourth period. But then the rim broke on a dunk by Marconato and the game was stopped for 25 minutes while a replacement was made. The luck comes to Efes after the ring changing. No sooner did play resume than Jurica Golemac hit a three-pointer and Efes took the lead again, 68-66. Efes didn't look back, just to Brown, whose own three midway through the quarter stretched the lead to 77-70. But Benetton never stopped fighting back. A Marconato inside shot and Garbajosa three reduced the difference to 77-75, then Edney drove the lane for the 80-80 tie with less than 2 minutes left. Brown did the same to put Efes back up 82-80 with just 30 seconds remaining, but Edney seemed to win it for Benetton by sticking a three from deep just seconds later. But it was not to be for the visitors. Arslan took the responsibility for the last shot, got close and put it down with just 4 seconds on the clock. He then picked up the ball when Benetton lost it to end the game. The victory belonged to Efes and Benetton was no longer undefeated.
Wednesday, October 16, 2002